July 4th, Independence day is more often associated with celebration at picnics, barbeques and fireworks. My recent trip through the Civil War Battlefield of Chickamauga appealed to my love of history. This memorial battlefield and national park formed after the enthusiasm for the centennial of the American Revolution.
Inspired veterans from both sides in the Civil war opted to share their annual BBQ at the site of the second bloodiest battleground of the Civil War. The spirit of unity that day led Congress in August of 1890 to create the first national military memorial park and recognized “the preservation for national study of the lines of decisive battles . . . as a matter of national importance.”
Freedom, Americans naturally associate with Independence Day, but rarely do we stop and in the same breath think of the losses. The twist of the stories that come to mind or personal memories of Independence day activities certainly show how freely we can enjoy the bounties of free speech, religion, assembly and yes, bear arms. I hope you’ll take a moment to review the bill of rights or the later amendments to the US constitution. Reading the transcript reminded me of the framer’s experience. The order imposed by a sovereign leader who never stepped onto American soil was a far cry from the ideals inspired by enlightened philosophers. The authors of our constitution felt it was time to be true to the values they held and took from the old what was essential and left some things open ended, flexible.
How lucky we are to enjoy the freedoms we do, to live and celebrate as we do. The range of commemorative holiday activities embody the spirit of the forward thinking framers and I recall with fondness my hometown parade that culminated in the gathering at the local park. The framers chose to keep some traditional values, the ones they felt, when rooted in American soul would flourish and flower into a new reality. Their very careful articulation of freedoms associated with liberty, justice and equality were a departure and yet a dedicated investment in a future they hoped would long endure.
On a personal note, July 4th is the last holiday that I shared with my father as he died very suddenly a few days later. My own memories connect personal and national commemorations. This week, I don’t merely want to wish everyone a happy 4th, but hope more take notice of freedoms too easily taken for granted. Independence day as a memorial day, commemorates the spirit of those who fought with words and others who lost their lives to secure ideals and live with freely.
These ideals pale if we don’t know how to act on them, or as I have written earlier. We must do more than aspire. For some ideas, read Value Honor and Reward Everyone.
My dad loved stores and in his memory I hope some of you will share your memories and memorials of the experience of freedom.